This is another of my "alphabet" stories. The first one is still here. I'll be posting a series of stories here regularly in the coming weeks and months. This one has been recorded for broadcast on local radio and is in my first collection of stories - "A Short Collection of Small Stories". Enjoy.
Absently, George stirred two spoonfuls of sugar into his solitary mug of coffee on the draining board below the kitchen window. Breadcrumbs lay in a random scatter across the stained grey work surface around the bread bin and the air had a faint tinge of burnt toast mixed with bacon fat. Coming towards the house along the narrow lane, beyond the low beech hedge at the bottom of the garden, he spied a familiar blue car. Damn Lydia for coming to visit just now; why couldn’t she call before she turned up? Everyone else seemed to understand that he needed to be on his own at the moment; why couldn’t she take the hint and stay away, leave him alone?
“Frosty morning, isn’t it, George?”
Greetings with Lydia were always of the stating-the-bleeding-obvious kind. Huffing on the back doorstep as he took in the sharp, clean January air, George attempted to be civil.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you till later, at the meeting in the village hall, Lydia.”
“Just as well I popped round then, isn’t it; the meeting’s been cancelled, so I thought I’d bring you some courgette soup and see if you needed anything.”
“Kind of you, but I’m fine, really.”
“Look, I know it’s none of my business, but -”
“My sentiments exactly, it is none of your business. Now, if you don’t mind, thank you for the soup, but I’m really rather busy.”
“Oh, I see, well if that’s what you want; but George, are you really alright?”
“Peace and quiet, that’s all I want; peace and quiet and to be left alone by busybodies who think they know what’s best for me.”
Quite unexpectedly, Lydia began to weep; copiously and messily, still poised on the doorstep. Reluctantly, George took her gently by the elbow and led her in to sit at the worn old kitchen table. Still sobbing, but quietly now, Lydia tried to explain. That everyone in the village had known and loved Penny; obviously not in the same way as George had, but that they had all missed her terribly these past six months and wanted him to know that. Useless, that’s what they all felt, and many of them had stopped coming to visit because he had made it clear that they were not welcome. Visibly shaken, George stood again to put the kettle on, find some digestive biscuits and gather his thoughts.
“Widower, that’s what I am now; such a horrible word, such a horrible thing to be,” he though, his gaze fixed on the crows gathering in the treetops at the end of the lane.
“Xylophone lessons, that’s what I’m going to take up; there’s a new class starting at the hall next Tuesday evening,” Lydia blew her nose noisily on a square of kitchen towel from the roll that George had thrust in front of her.
“You should come along, it might be fun.”
“Zither, that’s what I used to play, you know; got an old one in the attic, maybe I’ll get it down and see if I can still get a tune out of it” he said as he poured two mugs of tea, the long-lost shadow of a smile nudging at the edge of his mouth.
I don't need to to tell you we are facing difficult times just now. I hope this finds you and your loved ones well and adapting to whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
In my last newsletter, I was sharing news of being part of Poolewe Tuesday Market, stocking some of my products in Cabinet at the lovely An Talla Solais Gallery in Ullapool and an exhibition of my paintings at Inverewe Garden. You can see the paintings I planned to exhibit (and more), in the gallery pages of my website. More recently, I had provided cards and sketchbooks to the shop at Gairloch Museum. None of these things is happening now, for obvious reasons.
Sketchbooks and linoprinting
One of the upsides of being creative is that I never seem to find it hard to find something to do. Recently, I've been doing more linoprinting. I like the fact that I can get quite quick results. I keep things simple, which helps. Most of the printing has been of marine themed designs onto sketchbooks - gorgeous colours from Pink Pig - resulting in customised items, all with a unique, hand printed design on them. There are two sizes - little 4x4 inch ones, with good quality cartridge paper, and A5 size ones, with heavy duty watercolour paper. Yes, they're available to purchase on my website.
I'm planning to share some more of my short stories here on my blog in the coming weeks; there's no point them sitting in a drawer for ever! I'll be posting the ones from my two self-published short story collections; some of them have been broadcast on the fabulous Two Lochs Radio station already, and some more will hopefully be shared on air there in the future.
In the meantime, as always, my artwork, photography and a wide range of products are available via :
I highly recommend doing something creative during these trying times - draw, paint, write, play music. Plant seeds, and look forward to watching them grow. That's what I was doing yesterday. Or learn a language - I discovered the wonderful App, Duolingo and have been learning a bit of Gaelic, as well as brushing up on my French and German and getting going with Spanish. It's a great way to learn, very encouraging and good fun. Or make soup. Making soup is one of my go-to things when it all gets a bit too much. It feels like a time for recalibration, in so many ways.
Wishing you all the very best - thank you for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
See my Pebbles on the Beach Facebook page for regular posts and updates.
I have been very fortunate to find a writers' group to join in my new location. They have been very welcoming and I already feel very at home with them all. It's such a pleasure to share writings with others who write, and to hear everyone's contributions at our monthly meetings. It is often only when you read a piece out loud that you find the stumbling blocks - literally tripping over words and so finding out that they are probably not in the best order after all. There is always something to learn, things that can be done better.
As a result of joining the writers' group, I've recently had the great pleasure of being invited to record some of my short stories for the wonderful local radio station - Two Lochs Radio. A couple of these have been broadcast in the half hour programme, Westwords, which is broadcast on the first Wednesday of the month (at 9pm), and then repeated on the first Sunday (at 8pm). There are short stories, poems and longer pieces, all by local writers, delightfully interspersed by little snippets of appropriate music. One of my longer short stories is to be included in the next programme, on Wednesday 4th March (and then again on Sunday 8th March). If you are not in the local area, you can listen online, via the Two Lochs Radio website.
In the meantime, I thought I would share one of the stories which was broadcast for the first time at the start of this month, "Beyond the Begonias". It is also available in print in my first self-published volume of short stories, "A Short Collection of Small Stories". For anyone who is interested, it is one of my "alphabet" stories, where each sentence starts with the consecutive letter of the alphabet (and the story thus consists of 26 sentences). A little leeway is allowed when it comes to the letter "X"!
Beyond the Begonias - short story
After the rain stopped, she started planting again. Blood red begonias in big terracotta pots. Celia’s favourite flowers; she scooped handfuls of compost from the bag beside her, pressed the plants in firmly, watered them carefully. Digging her hands into the warm brown peatiness, she felt something akin to relief. Even breathing had been hard, recently. Forever looking over her shoulder, watching her back, thinking carefully before she spoke.
Gordon had become impossible. Hard to believe that the inert form sitting benignly beyond the French doors had once been a loving husband. Inch by inch, he had tortured them both into a living hell. Just when she had got to the point when she knew she must leave, a different plan emerged in her head. Kneeling on her cushioned weeding mat, a voice within had spoken quite clearly. Laughable though the thought was, Celia turned it over in her mind for several days. Moving through time in a stupor of misery, she nurtured the idea from tiny seed to little seedling. Now it was firmly planted; had taken roots, put out grasping tendrils. Only the timing had to be completely right. Piggishness on Gordon’s behalf had become the norm; she simply could not tolerate it one minute longer. Quelling her doubts, which were numerous, irrational and invalid, she acted quickly.
Right after supper one evening, she summoned him to the rooftop terrace to examine a fictitious missing slate. Shoving him over the tiny balcony had been easier than she had imagined. The body landed close to the new flowerbed, dug that morning by the young gardener she had recently employed. Under the dim sulphur glow of the streetlamps that night, she dragged the corpse into the hole. Violent waves of nausea overcame her and she gave her stomach contents as a parting gift. Where he had gone, no-one would ever know. Exiled to another country, run off with that brassy woman from down the road? Yes, maybe.
Zinnia, that was the name she had been trying to recall; that would be perfect for the new bed, Celia thought with a smile.
I hope this finds you well and ready to embrace a new decade.
I have quite a few bits of news to share, so here goes....
Poolewe Tuesday Market
I'm delighted to announce that I'll be taking part in Poolewe Tuesday Market this year. It's on from 10am til 2.30pm every Tuesday from the end of March until the end of October, in Poolewe Village Hall, with a wonderful range of artists and makers and food producers selling their wares. I'll have a table there with my artwork, gift items and cards nearly every week. Details of dates will be listed on my Pebbles on the Beach Facebook page (under Events). Very much looking forward to this, hope to see you there!
An Talla Solais Members' Show in Ullapool
I was thrilled to sell a couple of "Shipping Forecast" paintings at the Members' Show at An Talla Solais in Ullapool at the end of last year. The icing on the cake was also to have my work mentioned in a glowing review of the exhibition by Ian Mackay in the newly launched (last year) "Art North" magazine. Do look out for this publication, it's full of wonderful articles and reviews - you can subscribe to it online.
Delighted to say that some of my items (cards, keyrings, mugs and coasters) will soon be stocked by the lovely "Cabinet", which is the shop in the same premises as An Talla Solais gallery on West Argyle Street, Ullapool, IV26 2UG.
Open from the end of March until the end of October. Opening times to be confirmed; open when exhibitions are open.
Thanks so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
all the best
Pebbles on the Beach has moved...
Since the summer, I have been based near Gairloch on the northwest coast of Scotland. I am happy to say that this is where you will find me for the foreseeable future. The move is opening up new opportunities, as well as giving me the chance to strengthen existing connections. I am looking forward to the next chapter.
I currently have paintings (all from The Shipping Forecast series) in two exhibitions - the "Out there in Torridon" exhibition at the Loch Torridon Community Centre Gallery, and the Members' Show at An Talla Solais in Ullapool (my first time exhibiting there, delighted to be taking part!).
Opening times :
Torridon - Mon, Wed & Friday, 11am - 3pm.
Ullapool - Open every day 11am - 1.30pm and 2-4pm, until 22 December.
I am delighted to say that I will be exhibiting at Inverewe Garden in 2020 - more news about this soon.
I'm taking part in two events in the coming weeks - firstly -
I will have a selection of my products at the fairs - shown above are Shipping Forecast calendars, mugs, coasters, small original linoprints (new designs), customised sketchbooks (watercolour paper) and small original watercolours.
As always, thank you so much for your interest in my work, it is greatly appreciated.
All the best,
Photo credit : Ailsa Watson
For National Poetry Day
I wrote this free-form poem (with minor alterations) at the start of this year. It was a contribution to the Sustaining Life as a Creative Programme, run by the wonderful Creative Learning team in Aberdeen, which I was very fortunate to take part in.
The brief was to describe our creative journey.
I am the small pigtailed girl
Perched on the window seat, with
sugar paper and poster paints,
brush and water pot,
the wooden trolley
I am that girl in shorts and tee-shirt
on the west coast shore
searching for crabs every summer
before rockpooling was a thing
collecting shells and pebbles,
sticks and stones
I am the girl playing in the
corrugated iron shed behind
my granny’s house
wildflowers in a jam jar on the rickety table -
the hedgehog visiting -
imagination my best friend
I’m the schoolgirl sailing on the loch
with my first love
I'm the teenager climbing hills with friends
gazing over Scotland -
hills and heather
burns and boulders,
I am the student, drawing in my lab book,
Learning the nature of science
I am the scientist, fishing for facts about
Trout and mackerel and herring,
I am the translator, editor, creator,
putter-together of research volumes,
organiser of conferences and treasurer of troves
I am the mum with no clue -
doing, not making,
(except soup and cakes and occasionally marmalade)
with a head crammed full, jammed full
a scarcity of time to call mine
I am the thirty-something friend,
persuaded to trade
My violin for a fiddle,
To play tunes with people
Who would become pals
To add another dimension
I am the mandolin-playing ceilidh band member,
calling out dance steps
- Oh, the feeling of power!
I am the teacher of students,
The organiser of labs and lectures,
Marker of essays,
Developer of screen-based things
With no song to sing
Or dance to bring
I am the escapee,
Fleeing to evening classes -
Some shaky pots, a few pale paintings,
My sketchbook brought along
On family holidays
For rare moments of
I am the e-learning adviser,
Brain addled by screens,
Quitting the squeaky lino floors
Before it was too late
I am the pupil once more, online
And for real,
(because I respond well to being
I am the walker,
Walking with purpose -
In three years.
And Ben Nevis
No hesitation –
I am the delivery driver,
Dropping off veg
I am the spinner of stories
Weaver of yarns
I am the open studios partaker
Opening the door to my shed,
Pretending it is a studio,
letting people in to my life
To ask me questions
Which I find hard to answer –
When, What, Why, How?
It seems that some
Wish they had my life, whatever they
May think that is – living the dream –
An endless stream of ideas, most of which
Get washed away in the shower -
Down the drain, never to be
I am the artist, maker,
Creator of things
Which bring joy
I am the West coast
Still walking the tideline
In search of shells and pebbles,
Bleached bones of wood
Filling my pockets
Again and again
Still looking out to sea
I hope this finds you well and that you have enjoyed the summer - it definitely feels as if we are moving into autumn now.
I am happy to be taking part in North East Open Studios again this year - at the same venue as last year - the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee in Bieldside, Aberdeen. There will be nine of us showing a lovely range of work - from furniture to textiles, fused glass to painting, mixed media and printmaking. We call ourselves Art at the Phoenix for this event. I am number 302 in the NEOS book.
I have continued with The Shipping Forecast series of paintings and will have more of these on show, as well as small mounted works, mugs, coasters and of course greetings cards and 2020 calendars. There will be updates on my Pebbles on the Beach Facebook page throughout NEOS.
Opening Times -
I look forward to seeing you there!
"Occasional Rain" - original watercolour
You are invited to my Solo Exhibition : 4-29 June at the Acorn Gallery in the Acorn Centre in Inverurie.
The exhibition is open during cafe opening hours, so you can enjoy
coffee and cake, or a light lunch during your visit!
Open Tuesday - Thursday 10am - 3pm, Friday & Saturday, 10am - 4pm.
The Acorn Centre is within Inverurie West Parish Church, on
West High Street, Inverurie, AB51 3SA
"Fair, moderate or good".
The main focus of the show is a collection of new "Shipping Forecast" paintings, continuing with the theme I started last year during North East Open Studios. This is a series of seascapes of various sizes, all with titles based on phrases from the the well known and loved Shipping Forecast, broadcast every day on Radio 4. There will also be a few paintings of Bennachie on show.
I hope you enjoy the exhibition!
"Falling more slowly" "Occasionally high later"
"Good, occasionally poor" 80cm x 22cm approx.
February already! I hope this finds you settling in to 2019 and keeping warm in the recent wintry spell of weather.
This year I have taken the plunge and signed up for "Dream Plan Do", a scheme run by the Design Trust to help artists and makers (all creatives in fact) make a success of their business. It centres around a journal/workbook which asks lots of questions; some easy to answer (not many!), some more difficult and some downright scary! There is also a Facebook group, where we can compare notes, organise to meet face to face and agree that we need to reduce the amount of time we spend on social media... So far, it has certainly made me think about what I am doing and why, and where I am heading. There may be some changes ahead, but all good ones, I hope. I will keep you posted.
In the meantime, here are some exhibition dates for your diary - quite a long way ahead, but I guess it's good to be thinking about warm days ahead while we are still in February!
I will be taking some work over to the west coast to be part of the new "The Living Land Sea Sky" exhibition at the Loch Torridon Centre, which will be on from 14th May - 31st August. Current (winter) opening hours are 11-3, Mon, Wed & Fri. Easter to October, open 10-4, Monday - Saturday.
Delighted to say I'll be having a solo exhibition at the Acorn Centre in Inverurie. This will run from Monday 3rd June - Sat 29th June. Opening hours to be confirmed nearer the time.
Next up is the annual Milltimber, Bieldside & Cults Festival Art Exhibition, which runs this year from 22-25 August (Thurs - Sun). At the Phoenix Centre, Newton Dee, Bieldside, in Aberdeen.
And last but by no means least, I'm delighted to say that I will be showing my work as part of Art at the Phoenix at Newton Dee, for this year's North East Open Studios (NEOS).The dates for this year's event are Sat 14 - Mon 23 September. There will be ten artists and makers at the venue this time.
As you probably know, I produced some more "Shipping Forecast" paintings back in October - now it's time to get them framed and ready to go out into the world! Images above and below show a couple of them.
"Fair. Moderate or Good." 98cm x 24cm approx.
Christmas cards now available!
This year's Christmas cards were designed during a break on the west coast. The colours were influenced by what I had in my palette while painting some more of my Shipping Forecast series of paintings. In fact, I used what was there, so have ended up with less-than-traditional hues in the new cards! I was also inspired by collecting ferns and berries on my daily woodland walk, to construct a little "Christmas tree" photo design. Cards are now available to purchase from my website and from some of my local stockists.
Next year's calendar features some of my most recent paintings in The Shipping Forecast series. As in previous years, it's a slimline calendar with the back of each image printed so you can send it as a postcard. They are now available to purchase in my website shop, and also from some local stockists.
Delighted to say I have some original work in two exhibitions which are opening soon. The first is in Aberdeen, at Submit, organised by Peacock Visual Arts. The venue is W OR M in The Castlegate. Open 4th December - 19th January 2019. 10-5 daily until 23 Dec, then 10-5 daily 8th-19th Jan. All work is unframed. Below is one of the paintings I will have on show. ("Orange & Blue" - still life).
The second exhibition is on at the Moray Art Centre in Findhorn. It's on from 27th November until 3rd February 2019. Opening times - 10-5 daily Tues - Fri, 12-5 at weekends. "Storm 5 or 6" shown below, right, is one of two paintings I have in this show.
Many thanks for your continued interest
and all very best wishes for the festive season.